House Of Fun Madness
A former parliamentary aide accused of being a Russian spy won her battle to remain in the UK today after arguing that she was not passing secrets to Moscow.
Katia Zatuliveter, 26, convinced the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) that she was not liaising with Russian spies while working for Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock, a member of the Defence Select Committee, with whom she had an affair.
Despite not being allowed to attend large parts of the Siac hearing - much of it held behind closed doors with evidence from security services spies - Zatuliveter convinced the panel she was not a danger to national security.
It's after the lawyer acting on behalf of the Home Secretary, Jonathan Glasson, said Miss Zatuliveter targeted Mr Hancock, 65, because he was "potentially vulnerable". He told the hearing earlier that the Portsmouth South MP was known to have had a number of extra-marital affairs.
"You knew that Mr Hancock's private life might make him potentially vulnerable," he told the Russian in cross examination.
The parliamentarian was also a member of the Defence Select Committee at the time of the affair, which the Home Secretary's lawyer said would have made him of particular interest to the Kremlin.
Responding to Miss Zatuliveter's comment that he was just a backbench MP, he said:
"He's not just a backbench MP though, is he? He's a member of the Defence Select Committee."
The Siac panel also heard the Russian had a string of relationships, mostly sexual, with unidentified officials from European countries when she acted as a chaperone to delegates attending conferences in Russia.
Tim Owen QC, representing Miss Zatuliveter, told the tribunal the MI5 spooks investigating his client were more like bumbling Inspector Clouseau than fictional espionage hero George Smiley.
Launching a scathing attack on the Security Service he likened the spies to the comedy Pink Panther character made famous by Peter Sellers rather than being like the spymaster in John Le Carre's novels such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Mr Owen said:
"On any view it reveals an extraordinarily poor investigative approach, more akin to Inspector Clouseau than George Smiley."
Miss Zatuliveter was stopped at Gatwick Airport in August last year, and was arrested in December amid fears she was engaged in espionage. She'll now be able to stay in the UK after successfully arguing against the claims.